Staff, advocates for center throughout the years share memories, challenges, triumphs
The UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center held its 25th anniversary celebration on May 7, providing food and presenting several speakers who reminisced and shared stories about the center’s history.
The theme of the anniversary celebration was “Heal, Embrace, Reclaim!” Monae Roberts, the director of the Center, encouraged those seated at the tables to grab an index card and answer a question pertaining to the theme, such as “How can we contribute to the healing of our past?” and “What about our present existence are you embracing?” The index cards were collected and put on display, Roberts said. The cards were paired with “old photos of past folks who used to work at the center,” continuing the theme of looking back in order to heal, along with “teaching how we do things [at the center.]”
Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Sheri Atkinson was the first speaker. She first came to UC Davis in 2003 to be the director of the then-named Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center. Atkinson remarked that she was excited at the prospects of working for the resource center on campus upon her arrival, as there were hopeful indicators of success and support such as having actual staff members, compared to her time at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota where they built the center from the ground up. But Atkinson also noted that there was work to be done.
“One of the things I heard pretty quickly was that students of color, queer students of color, LGBTQIA [people] of color didn’t feel comfortable or feel like this center served them at that time,” Atkinson said.
This led to Atkinson working with students, staff and other centers, such as the Cross Cultural Center, to promote intersectionality and inclusivity as much as possible.
“Even the LGBTQIA community is not immune to issues of oppression and racism, sexism, misogyny,” Atkinson said. “We started engaging with people making those [uninformed] comments and talking about the impact. We also started to center marginalized voices within our community and our programming.”
Among those seated in the crowd who were particularly reminiscent was John Dixon. Dixon worked on campus for 33 years, serving as the second chairperson for the LGBTQIA committee. His 33 years of work for the LGBTQIA community have shown Dixon that “things have come a long way.” What particularly stood out for Dixon with regard to how the center is currently established is the fact that you can “see it in the open.”
“People were still in the closet [when I was still working] and the building was on the west side of campus, so you didn’t see people going in,” Dixon said.
Written by: Deana Medina — firstname.lastname@example.org